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Technology is the Key: Continued Learning amid the COVID-19 Pandemic


By Antonette Ollado-Valle
Bula South Central School

Among the different sectors of Philippine society, education is one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For one, it involves hundreds of thousands of students, faculty, education officials and staff, and other stakeholders.

This large number means any change that will be implemented to cope with the global health crisis will have to be on a massive scale.

Furthermore, all of their needs have to be taken into consideration before any of these adjustments should be carried out.

These also include questions on equity and equality, especially because these adjustments necessarily mean an added financial strain, and possibly strong emotional effects on the psycho-social well-being of the teachers, learners, and their families.

Any change will also have to be implemented immediately, as well, in time for the agreed-upon schedule of the opening of classes this August.

The silver lining is that we are not alone in facing these learning difficulties.
As the pandemic hit every part of the world, many education experts and researchers have been coming up with ideas and innovations on how to continue the teaching and learning process.

For example, in the paper “'School’s Out, But Class’ On', The Largest Online Education in the World Today: Taking China’s Practical Exploration During The COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention and Control As an Example,” Chinese researchers Longjun Zhou, Shanshan Wu, Ming Zhou, and Fangmei Li turned to online education. (Zhou 502)

E-learning or online education, Zhou et al. said, started in the United States, and after 1998 has been spreading worldwide. (502)

However, even with the availability of mobile Internet, online education was treated more as supplement to school education, according to the same paper.
“In the normalized education and teaching practice, more students go to schools to participate in traditional classroom teaching, and large-scale online education lacks practical application scenarios,” the paper reads. (502)

With the pandemic, however, educators in China needed to implement online education on a scale wider than ever before due to physical distancing measures and enhanced health practices.

The Chinese Ministry of Education is turning to technology-based platforms to achieve the goal of “School’s Out But Class’s On,” and providing the necessary learning support services for home study.

The initiatives of the Chinese Ministry of Education include the following: making overall use of television and network resources; coordinating the characteristics of online learning and the actual needs of students; and make overall use of local resources and national platforms, and guide local and schools to make good use of national elementary and middle schools network cloud platforms; coordinate the role of backbone teachers and all other teachers; and combining overall planning and active promotion with standard implementation. (503)

These initiatives are comparable to what a school in Athens, Greece is doing as they also transition to virtual education.

In the research “The 5-Phase Process as a Balancing Act during Times of Disruption: Transitioning to Virtual Teaching at an International JK-5 School,” Avgeriou and Moros write that apart from changing the learning experience, routine, and perspectives at their school, they also paid attention to the professional development of in-service teachers. (Avgeriou and Moros 583)
According to them, they were guided by “research-informed best practices of virtual teaching, and effects of online learning for students between ages of 3-11, while bearing the state of emotional and financial stress of all constituents.” (583)
This is supported by the paper “Education and the COVID 19 pandemic” by Sir John Daniel, who adds that “reassuring students and parents is a vital element of institutional response.” (Daniel, n.p.)

He also suggests that in the e-learning setup, the teaching should contextualize learning, particularly in light of the global and historical context of COVID-19. (Daniel, n.p.)

Filipino educators may learn a lot from these insights and applications of learning continuity amid the coronavirus outbreak in various parts of the world.
As we are seeing now, education happens best with the cooperation and collaboration of every member of the community—in this case, the global community.

What we need to realize now is that in education, all of us are stakeholders, even those who do not have children to send to school or have long graduated.

It is also good to share our personal experiences to contribute to a list of best practices that can be used not only in the Philippines but also in other parts of the world, particularly those which have societies similar to ours.

We are also learning how technology has great potential in our bid for learning continuity.
While some parents and teachers saw it as mere distractions in the past, we are now coming to terms with the idea that when used properly and responsibly, it can assist education, especially during times when traditional face-to-face schooling is risky and not recommended.

We have no idea whether this pandemic will be the last, or if it will be the worst that our generation will face.

Indeed, there may be viruses and bacteria that are yet to be discovered and which will threaten us again.

There are also other emergencies, such as disasters and conflicts, that may send us back to e-learning in the future.

What we can do now is to learn what we can from these challenges, and turn the problems into  opportunities.

As Avgeriou and Moros state, there are now research themes emerging from these studies into online learning, such as their effect on culture and identity, teacher practice, student learning, and social-emotional outcomes. (583)

We need to better understand, for instance, how to best prepare teachers and students for this kind of learning.

We also need to know if and when we should best transition back to blended learning or even traditional face-to-face learning.

As always, data collection and analysis are necessary to ensure that the steps we are taking serve to benefit and not harm the learners.

Everyone’s cooperation is crucial at this time, not only for education, but also for the global community to continue thriving and developing.

While we cannot completely erase the negative impact of the pandemic, we can at least work hard to mitigate it.

We owe it to our learners and to ourselves.



Works Cited:

Avgerinou, Maria D. and Sophia E. Moros. "The 5-Phase Process as a Balancing Act during Times of Disruption: Transitioning to Virtual Teaching at an International JK-5 School." 

Daniel, Sir John. "Education and the COVID-19 pandemic." Prospects (2020): 1-6.

Zhou, Longjun, et al. "'School’s Out, But Class’ On', The Largest Online Education in the World Today: Taking China’s Practical Exploration During The COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention and Control As an Example." But Class’ On', The Largest Online Education in the World Today: Taking China’s Practical Exploration During The COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention and Control As an Example (March 15, 2020) (2020).